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How To Save Money By Moving Yourself

Updated on September 1, 2012


I've actually moved several ways from place to place over the years.

For a cross town move to a new apartment, I've loaded up my car and struggled with everything I owned, making multiple trips.

For something more adventurous, on our first cross-country move, we loaded up a single U-Haul truck, put our little 4-month-old baby on my lap, and struck out. We pulled our car behind us across country with a dog and a cat riding in the car along with my plants. The plants did not survive, eaten by someone.....and the brakes did not survive either as it turns out another someone was lying on the brake pedal.

We've also been moved by the government from Detroit to Chicago, then Chicago to the west coast.

However, our last move, 6+ years ago, proved to be the most challenging. We moved about 300 miles away. We decided we couldn't afford the high cost of a moving company so set about how to move ourselves with the least amount of fuss and expense, and still preserve our most treasured belongs.

It was a challenge indeed but it can be done. We bought our new home in May and moved here in mid July. Not much time to get it done but we did it~!

Let's take a look at how to move me, it can be done.



We went from living in an over 2000 square feet to an over 3000 square feet. However, we were supposed to be downsizing....another story for another day! Our old house though had an incredibly huge storage area above our garage with loads of furniture and "stuff".

So what's the first thing you need to do when you decide to make a move?

  • Reorganize and rethink. The first thing that needs to be done when you decide on any move, long distance or short, is what you absolutely need to go with you and what you don't. You need to visualize the new digs and visualize it room by room. Then decide how much you want to take and how much you can part with.

    How to do that? We went through every room in the house and decided if we wanted this room to be "as is" or if we were going to change it up in our new location. As we went through the rooms, we decided right then....get rid of it, keep it, or maybe. We wrote everything down that we wanted to keep, everything that we needed to get rid of, and then anything that we were still deciding on.
  • Have a lay of the land for the new place. We had a layout of the home we were moving into that was diagrammed, complete with the doors, windows, etc. That way, we could tell where we could place furniture or more importantly where we could not place it. Our new house had many more windows (much sunnier climate) and the window effect was huge in our decision of what we could reasonably keep.
  • Parting with your stuff. Next, after ruthlessly deciding what to keep and what would have to go, we moved out everything from every room in the house and the huge storage area that wasn't traveling with us to the "sell chute"....the garage.

    We then put an ad in the paper and started marking and pricing. We priced things to sell.....we made a killing and we priced things SUPER low. People were driving away with truck loads of stuff like canning jars, a dining room table we used in the family room, chairs, an extra dresser or 3, a ping pong table.

    We sold everything dirt cheap just so we could get rid of it. We ended up with very few items that we had to cart down to the Salvation Army or the Goodwill.

    I have to point out though that we were ruthless. We pared our belongings down to only what needed to go with us and got rid of everything else!


  • Let the packing begin! Once we had cleared out everything, we then began packing. Instead of going to U-Haul and paying a fortune for their boxes, I became the scavenger of all time. I tumbled into dumpsters filled with cardboard and pulled out boxes of every imaginable size.

    I hit up grocery stores and bike stores, computer stores. I begged boxes from anyone and everyone but it all paid off. At the time we moved, I had 6 computers and all kinds of other equipment for our business. I needed to be sure the computers alone would arrive in 1 piece and not 3. The computer boxes even had packing inside the boxes. I was able to pack my computers on the last day like they had just come from the factory.

    Planning ahead can save you a lot of bucks. I never had to pay for 1 box. I was even able to fashion some myself from huge pieces of cardboard. I packed pictures, mirrors and more in bicycle boxes with loads of cushioning. And believe it or not....not one thing got broken!
  • Packing techniques. The only thing I did invest in was packing paper at U-Haul because I did not want to wash everything on the other end. I did not use newspaper except in instances where there could be no contact with my "stuff."

    I set up packing stations in every room with my packets of paper. Every day and every night, I'd go through cupboards and pack items for that room we probably would not need for a while. I marked each box on the outside in bold where it needed to go and then wrote down a generalized idea of what I'd packed.

    For more money, you can of course buy all kinds of great organizational tapes, labels, etc. U-Haul specializes in making it easy for you....if you want to pay the money. They even have boxes that are already labeled. In my case, I wanted to save as much money as we could on the move so I just did it myself.
  • Prelude to the move. As I packed up each box, I moved the contents of rooms or cupboards together so that there would be little to do when the time came to pack up the final items. I also moved any furniture that was not an absolute necessity to the doorway and then had my "crew" start getting everything into the moving chute...the garage.

    We stacked boxes and furniture as best we could according to the rooms. If we felt that we had some stuff that was not really going to be a necessity to have right at hand, we moved that group of stuff to the way back of the garage. We were operating pretty much on the FILO system....first in, last out of the truck.


  • The big event. Over several weeks, I had managed to whittle down what we had left in our house to the bare bones. Everything from sports equipment to seasonal clothes were packed into boxes or on hangers inside storage closets. Everything was all lined up in the garage ready to go. We gradually got most of the furniture out as well as we got closer and closer to moving time...and we added more and more boxes.

    We estimated everything we had and measured and calculated. We came up with needing 2 U-Haul trucks...the largest size....and that would be cutting it close. We knew it would be close and in fact we had to rent a third but smaller truck.

    My husband had to go back anyway for closing up the old house so all those things we didn't need right away stayed at the back, marked for the third and last truck.

    Come moving day, we had 1 car that was being driven (by me with a few plants but most importantly, our 2 malamutes). The other car was on a trailer behind one of the U-Haul being towed (full of plants and more things). We lined up one of our friends to drive one of the trucks and my husband drove the other.

    We had friends and family helping load the trucks the day before we left, maximizing every inch of space that we could to get the most in each truck.

    • We put all heavy items such as dressers and appliances towards the front of the truck.
    • We put boxes inside appliances or small things inside dressers.
    • We used blankets and sheets to keep things from being damaged.
    • We packed everything as closely and as solidly as we possibly could.
    • We closed the door on one truck and moved the other into position and filled that up!
    • Same the brim and making every inch count so as to minimize any shifting.
  • And we're off. The next morning at the crack of dawn, we set out and were at our new home in 6 hours. We had our set of who drove their car, her husband driving the other truck, ourselves, and our son here to help unload. We had known that this wouldn't be enough, so we hired 2 young men from the local Labor Ready Work Source and they were here right on time to help unload the trucks.

    We did it all and with the boxes marked, it was fairly easy to set the things in the right rooms.....for the most part.

    One word of caution.....I had so many kitchen boxes that we ended up with millions (it seemed) of boxes and nowhere to put them. We just stacked them all up and I got to those as soon as I could.

    We also put any boxes that weren't necessities in the new garage for later sorting but organized them according to what room as best we could.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Small box
Mattress covers
Bubble wrap
Large box
Clothing bags
Book box
Appliance Dolly
Packing paper
Small wardrobe
Piano mover attachment
Smart move tape
Large wardrobe
Hitch trailers
Foam pouches
Mirror box
Car racks
Paper pads
TV box
Furniture pads
Computer box
Dish packs
Records box
Cushion foam
Dish box
Marking pens
China box
Clipboards & lists

What you can find at your local U-Haul store


In short, we made a huge move within a relatively short period of time, but it can be done! The most important thing is planning.

We actually ended up with just the right amount of furniture for our new house. We bought some pieces later on but they were replacements for what we'd brought so it was a switch out rather than an overabundance.

We got rid of window treatments or left them with the old house and redid ours bit by bit in the new house.

It was a mind blowing experience to know that we could do it ourselves and have such a high success rate! Even with the third truckload of our stuff, it was all just right and fit very nicely into our new home.

The most amazing thing of all, we've never sighed and said "dang.....I wish we hadn't sold that". That’s a great know that you can pare down your belongings and take only what you need and start over.

If you're thinking of moving yourself, just remember the above points and you'll do just fine.

It's all about having a plan and then going on from there a day at a time.

You can save a ton of money by doing it yourself, especially scrounging for packing materials!


I remember when the government moved us several times in years past. I tried so hard to be organized and mark all the boxes and have everything "just so" on the other end. It never worked out.

Within about a half hour of them starting to pack up our things, I'd lost all control over the situation and everything was packed in boxes and I didn't know what was in one from the other. I also had no clue on where to find things!

It took me weeks to find everything and sort it all out! Most movers really don't seem to have your organizational plan on their mind. I think they just want to pack it and be done with it.

Likewise when they brought in our furniture and belongings, I started out great guns and was instructing them which room to put what box in or put that piece of furniture in that room."

However, there are more of them than one "in-charge" woman and I do think they are on the speed program. It quickly became evident that I'd best just have them set everything in one room and work from there on my own because I could not keep up with them for half an hour!

Whatever way you go about moving, it can be a nightmare....or it can be a positive experience.

But you can save a bucket load of money if you make it a do-it-yourself moving project.

If you have more ideas or recommendations on how you moved yourself, please do me the honor of putting your suggestions and ideas here for all to read! Who knows.....we may move yet again one of these days and I could use the tips!

If you haven't used it in a while, you probably won' get rid of it
Moving is a wonderful time to evaluate what you have and what you actually need
Visualize moving as a new lease on life - you get to start over and see where you end up
Most THINGS in life are replaceable but happiness is not
Usually if we get rid of something, it's always possible to get it again
Nothing is forever....enjoy the present no matter where you're planted

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